To be independent

It is healthy for all young people including those with additional needs and disabilities to move towards achieving as much independence as possible. This page provides information about how to promote such independence.

Why promote independence?

Many children with a disability are sheltered from taking risks. This is not surprising given the number of people in their lives, such as, parents, carers, school staff, childcare staff, friends and extended family.

Becoming independent helps the child by:

  • teaching them that it is OK to make mistakes
  • helping them to discover the powerful learning that can result from making mistakes
  • helping them to take responsibility for the decisions and choices they have made and will need to make into the future
  • providing an opportunity to understand what happens when they make certain decisions.

However the idea of being independent can be frightening for children and equally scary for parents. This can be due to:

  • needing extra care because of their disability in the early part of their life
  • children and adolescents picking up on the fears of their parents and not being prepared to take risks
  • parents wanting to protect their child from negative experiences in the wider community
  • the understandable difficulty for parents to ‘let go’ of a child for whom they have given up a great deal and who they also love unconditionally.

The key to promoting independence is the positive support, praise and encouragement given to children. This changes the way that they think of themselves, which in turn reduces fears and negative feelings about the idea of becoming independent. This experience helps people make better choices and decisions.


What may affect independence

  • Being able to make choices in as many areas of life as possible
  • Being able to make your own decisions
  • Having your own privacy and personal space
  • Having the freedom to make mistakes
  • Being provided with good, reliable information
  • Having the basic skills necessary for living, such as self-care and money skills
  • Being assertive behaviour based on a strong belief that each person has rights that should be respected by others
  • Having a good self-image
  • Having the support of other people
  • Being able to get assistance from people who are employed to provide care (care attendants) at the request of the person with the disability
  • Having aids and gadgets that make it possible for the person do things without help
  • Living in adapted housing – having ramps and rails built in
  • Being able to use community services, such as the public transport service
  • Being able to use an advocate when this is required
  • Having opportunities to work – either on a paid or unpaid basis



Services we offer to promote independence

Assistive Technology Services
Home Modification
In-Home Support
Occupational Therapy
Social Work
Supported Independent Living



The following books can be found in the Novita Library.

  • Hannon, K E & Thompson, M A (1992). Life skills workshop: an active program for real life problem solving. LinguiSystems, United States
  • Parsons, C (1986). Leaving home. Chambers, Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Patterson, C (1988). It’s OK to be you!: feeling good about growing up. Century Hutchinson, Auckland, New Zealand
  • Rutherford Turnbull III, H (1989). Disability and the family: a guide to decisions for adulthood. P H Brookes Pub. Co., Baltimore
  • Wehman, P (1985). Functional living skills for moderately and severely handicapped individuals. TX Pro-Ed., Austin


For more information

Novita psychologists can provide information about this topic. Where a person is helped to have a new understanding about things that have, or may be likely to happen to them, by talking them through with another person and other materials that may be of assistance. They are also sometimes involved in running courses for families to support them in learning how to promote independence.

If you would like information or free advice, speak to someone in our friendly team on 1300 NOVITA (1300 668 482) or visit our Contact Us page for more ways to get in touch.